Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Morning

I stand above little number three, braiding her hair and listening to the sounds of the house.

Eggs sizzle on the stovetop. My best friend adds some ham and cheese and stirs them to perfection. Littles number one and two stand nearby, chattering about Mario and levels and "dad, why are you putting cheese in the eggs?" Little number four stands on a stool playing in the silverware drawer. The hum of the washing machine drowns out the snores of little number five who is snoozing in her cradle.

The house is full of constant motion. These little ones, they never stop moving, never stop talking, never stop asking questions.

And this moment, this Sunday morning...is perfection. It's exactly how I envisioned my life years ago when I was just a little one myself playing with my dolls.

They sit down to eat, and the chatter continues. And my heart swells. And I thank the one who gave me so many blessings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

She is the woman....

There is a woman who taunts me.  I see her everywhere I go. 

She is the woman whose kids don't touch everything at Wal-mart.  Her kids follow her quietly and say "yes, ma'am" when she tells them to do something.  My kids pretend to shoot the other customers in the aisles, and I often have to tell them several times to do something before getting a response.

She is the woman with the clean floors.  She sweeps up crumbs after every meal, and she mops at least once a week.  Her kids never have dirty socks.  My kids socks are filthy and my floor is covered in yesterday's lunch.

She is the woman who takes meals to every new mother.  Her meals are always balanced and made from scratch.  She gives organic applesauce, and her cookies are baked to perfection.  I give bagged salad and bread from Wal-mart.  My cookies are slightly burnt.

She is the woman who smiles at everyone.  She has a kind word for even the most annoying person.  Everyone likes her, and she gets invited to every party.  She never sits alone.  I avoid the annoying person, and I often sit alone.

She is the woman who gets up an hour early to read her Bible and pray.  She is known as a "prayer warrior", and when she says she will pray for someone she actually does.  She keeps a detailed journal of how God has answered her prayers, and she talks to Him all throughout the day.  I get up early, but often get distracted by e-mail, facebook, or some other shiny thing.  When I do try to focus and pray, I fall asleep or the baby starts to cry.

She is the woman with beautiful highlights in her hair, and rings on her fingers.  Her clothes are always in style, and her jewelry never fails to compliment her outfit.  She has beautifully manicured fingernails, and she is never caught without her lipstick on.  I haven't had a haircut in more than a year, and I bite my fingernails.  I never know what clothes look nice, so I just buy whatever is on sale at the thrift store.

She is the woman who never yells at her kids.  She speaks softly and lovingly to them, and they respond in kind.  She rarely has to discipline them because she has done such a good job at raising them to be obedient.  I yell at my kids, and they respond in kind.  Some days I wonder if I was cut out for the role of "mom."

She is the woman whose husband looks forward to coming home each day.  She welcomes him with open arms and a smile on her face.  She has his favorite meal on the table, and she serves it without complaint.  My husband comes home to a stressed out wife who sometimes hasn't even started dinner yet. 

I will never be that woman.  I will try, and I will fail.  And I will try again, and I will fail again.

But...

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am a child of God.

I am loved with an everlasting love.

I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.

I cannot be separated from the love of God.

I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected.

I can find grace and mercy in time of need.

I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.

I am God's temple.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I am complete in Christ.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Children

I have five amazing children.  Each one has his own personality, and they each bring me so much joy.

AJ is our firstborn.  He is eight years old now, and has started to roll his eyes.  He doesn't want kisses in public anymore, but at home he loves snuggles and hugs and kisses.   He is a show off, and loves to perform.  AJ is our most competitive child, and he wants to play football when he grows up.

Drew is almost seven.  He is our tender child.  He is always willing to hold my hand and give me hugs and kisses in public.  He has a quirky personality, and has become a bit of a loner in social situations.  Drew seems to live in his own little world, I often find him so caught up in his thoughts that he doesn't even notice what is going on around him.  Drew loves to read, and wants to be an inventor someday.  Or maybe a scientist.  Or an astronaut.  Or a pastor.  Or a manager at Jack-in-the-Box.

Megan, at five years old, is our oldest girl.  She knows she is beautiful, and is very comfortable in her skin.  She loves to wear dresses and rain boots.  Megan sings and dances constantly.  I often hear her singing from her bed long after lights out.  She has a knack for memorization, and can recite all of the books of the Bible and often corrects us when we are working on our catechism as a family.  Megan wants to be a wife and mom someday.

Kaybelle is one and a half, but has already entered the "terrible two's."  She climbs on all the furniture, and empties out every drawer and cabinet.  She is a Daddy's girl, and loves to hang out next to Ray and eat his chips.  Kay's favorite thing is to make people laugh.  She is definitely the silly sister.  Kay loves shoes, purses, and going to MOPS.

Melody is just two months old.  She is a gorgeous baby and nurses like a champ.  She is our little "mellow yellow", and is a great sleeper.  Melody is our family's song of hope, and she brings joy to everyone around her.

These five little ones...these gifts from God...  They just blow my mind daily.  They teach me more than I could ever teach them.  They show me unconditional love, and they teach me to be patient.

People ask me all the time how on earth I handle five kids.  The truth?  I don't know how I would live without them.  Each one contributes so much to our family dynamic, and they are all so precious to me.

I can't imagine my life any other way. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

no words

The phone rings. The caller ID shows my sister’s name, and I answer the phone with a smile. “Are you sitting down?” I am. And I immediately know why she is calling. And I wish I hadn’t answered the phone. I wish that she was calling to ask me a homeschool question, or tell me some funny story about Squeezy, or anything. Anything other than this. Anything other than more heartbreak.

She is well composed. Certainly in shock. I don’t know what to say.  There are no words for a moment like this. My heart feels like it is breaking in a million pieces. Why? Why again? Why this little one who was so loved already, who was so hoped for and wanted? Why now?

"No heartbeat."

The words swirl around my head.  The tears begin to flow.   I tell her that I love her and we end the call.  I had no words for her and I have no words for my waiting family, and so I go to the bed and lay face down.  My body wrenches with grief.  Ray comes in and holds me.  “It’s not fair.”  He doesn’t respond.  There are not really any words for a moment like this.  He just sits with me and lets me cry it out.  

There is bacon in the oven.  I know it needs to come out or it might burn.  Kaybelle jumps on the bed next to me and rubs her snotty nose on the blankets.  I go to the kitchen and finish making dinner.  I pick up Melody and hold her close.  I cut up Megan’s potatoes, and I fill up Kay’s milk cup.  AJ and Drew ask questions.  I think I answer them.  But really, there are no words for a moment like this.

Life in our home keeps moving at the same fast pace that it always does. And I can’t help but think about how unfair it is. How can everything keep moving along normally when everything has changed? How can I smile, when I know she is grieving?

I feel suffocated. The dishes are piling up in the sink, the kids are getting louder and louder. I need to get away. I nestle Melody in her buckles and I walk out the door into the crisp air. More tears.

I click in the carseat, and think of the niece or nephew that I will never get to hug and kiss. I consider getting on the highway and driving through the night. I am 2500 miles away from where I need to be tonight. I long to hold her hand, to tell her that I love her, to cry with her.

Instead I go see a friend. Someone that I haven’t seen in months. Someone who I know will make me smile and laugh and forget about things for a few minutes. We chat as I browse through racks of clothes.

I walk out feeling a little better, and I get in the van to head home. The speakers blare out Seeds of Courage. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I sing along, and the tears flow again.

I pray for a miracle.  I pray for a heartbeat.  I pray for her comfort and healing.  I pray that I will have the words to say next time we talk.  I pray.  And I hope.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Relationship

I lay with my eyes closed listening to her little grunts.  My body is warm and comfortable under the blankets, and I can't help but hope that she falls back to sleep.  His foot reaches over and finds mine, and I settle in closer to him.  But it isn't long before her grunts become more urgent, and I know I'm going to need to fill up her little belly.

I sit in the dark and nurse.  She anxiously takes her fill, and I feel her body relaxing in my arms.  She is comfortable with me.  I am the only one who satisfies her hunger, I know how to cradle her when the tears flow, I know just the right voice to use to make her smile.  She trusts me completely to provide for her every need.  She depends on me without reservation.  I know her better than anyone else.

So should my relationship with my Creator be.  He satisfies my hunger.  He brings me comfort when my soul is troubled.  He makes me glad.  I can trust Him completely to provide for me and keep me safe.  I can depend on Him.  He knows me better than I know myself.

The shameful thing is that I often turn away from His provision.  I deny the comfort that He offers so freely.  I allow my soul to hunger and thirst, even as He extends to me the bread of life. 

Why?  Why do I deny Him and all He has to offer?

I'm stubborn.  I'm selfish.  I like to be in control.  I don't like change. 

But the fact is, I need Him.  I can't do this on my own.  I won't truly live until I die to self and let Him satisfy me. 

Father, I long to desire change.  Satisfy me with Your love.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trust

Her little legs were moving slowly.  She trudged on, trying to keep up with the rest of the family.  "My legs hurt.  I'm tired of walking."


She saw her brother being hoisted onto daddy's shoulders and I could see the wheels turning in her head.  She watched them closely until finally her brother was let down to the ground.  At that moment, her tired legs found some energy and she ran to her daddy.  I watched her ask him if she could have a ride on his shoulders too.

A moment later she was shrieking.  Her daddy was giving her specific instructions.  He was telling her where to hold on and how to sit.  She was so focused on falling that she couldn't bring herself to obey him.  He gently set her down and told her that he wouldn't be able to hold her on his shoulders is she couldn't follow his instructions.

She looked up at me with sad eyes.  "I was just too afraid that I was going to fall off and crack my head open on the sidewalk!"  "Don't you trust your daddy?  Daddy wouldn't let you fall.  He was holding onto you the whole time!"  I could see the struggle in her eyes.  She wanted to do it so badly, but was just too afraid.

How often do I behave that same way with my God?  He tells me to do something, but I just can't bring myself to do it because it is different and scary.  I don't trust that He is going to protect me, so I kick my legs and cry and do it my own way.  And because of my stubbornness, I often end up just like my little girl:  trudging along with sore legs right next to the one who could pick me up and help me.

Lord, I long to trust you.  Give me the courage to give up control and do things Your way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

toes

I have a new header today.  I kind of love it, but I guess it probably doesn't make much sense to anyone other than me.  Ray thought that I had superimposed the foot, but I didn't.  I was trying to take a pretty picture of the keyboard, and Kaybelle stuck her toes in the frame .

I love it because it kind of sums up my life.  Even when I try to make things beautiful and perfect and wonderful, someone or something always comes along and messes it up.

I'm starting to see, however, that sometimes the mess can be beautiful.  Sometimes, the little toenails with chipped pink polish can make the picture even more delightful.

It's all in how I choose to look at things.

I can get frustrated by the constant fingerprints on my walls, or I can be thankful for the little fingers that put them there.  I can get twitchy about the crumbs on my floor, or I can be grateful that God blessed me with 5 little mouths to feed.  And the list could go on and on.

The juxtaposition of the toes in front of the shiny keyboard is a good reminder for me.  Gotta keep perspective.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crazy?

I don't think a day has gone by since Melody was born that I haven't heard some sort of comment about the size of our family.  I get it.  We're an anomaly.  We don't fit into society's definition of what a perfect family should be.  Lots of people say (or imply) that we are crazy.  Most moms will say something like, "You must be supermom.  I could never handle that many kids!" or "Goodness, I can barely handle my one!  I don't know how you handle five at once."

The comments are usually easy to brush or laugh off.  Sometimes I just nod and smile, sometimes I give back a quippy response, sometimes I try to explain that it's not all that difficult.

But sometimes it is.  Sometimes it is just plain hard.  Sometimes my heart is torn in five different directions and I have no idea who needs me the most.  Sometimes I have a little one in my arms, another little one pulling on my jeans and sobbing in exhaustion "mama, mama", another one laying in bed with a fever, another one stomping her feet in anger, and another one trying to tell me about ewoks and wookiees and who knows what else.  Not to mention the grilled cheese is burning.

In those moments, I find myself agreeing with those other moms who think I'm crazy.  I don't think I can handle it.  I don't have enough hands, and I just can't do it all.

It really is true.

But I have help.  When I'm weary, He gives rest.  When I'm overwhelmed, He gives peace.  When I'm sad, He gives comfort.  When I have nothing left to give, He girds me up and gives me strength.  He is my refuge and strength.  When I call, He answers.  He rescues me.  He protects me.  He delivers me.

He is my fortress.  I will never be shaken.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Still

I jump out of bed violently, confused about what just happened.  I replay the events in my mind...  The e-mail.  The sad look in Ray's eyes.  The way I felt as I ran away to that other man.

I can't breathe.  It's all too much to bear.  How could I have done that?  I know I have given up everything in my life that I hold dear.  My eyes begin to fill with tears, and suddenly I realize...

It was all a dream.

A horrible nightmare that felt oh so real.

I pull on my yoga pants and tennis shoes and smooth my hair into a ponytail.  I step outside into the crisp morning air and I begin to run.  Jerry Jenkins begins speaking to me about the importance of putting up hedges in my marriage.  I guiltily wonder if he somehow knew about my dream, but then realize how silly that thought is.

Thirty minutes later, sweaty and out of breath, I step back into the warmth of our home.  The quiet welcomes me, and I pull my damp clothes off.  I wash the moisture from my sweaty body with a bad feeling.  I remind myself over and over again, "It was a dream.  Just a dream.  Not real."  But it won't leave my head.

I turn on the iron and glance over at the pile of wrinkled clothes.  I try to remember what color he likes to wear on Mondays.  Tuesdays are green.  Fridays are red.  I can't remember what Mondays are so I decide to just iron the whole pile.  Blue, white, blue, black, green, red, green, blue, gray, green, black...  With each shirt comes a prayer.  A prayer for the one who is laying on the other side of that door.  A prayer for his protection, for his day at work, for purity of his mind, for his safety...  The steam from the iron presses out the wrinkles in the clothes, and the prayers press out the wrinkles left on my soul from the nighttime torment.

I hear him get out of bed and begin his morning routine.  We don't see enough of each other, and a few minutes later he gives a quick hug and is out the door.  I didn't even notice what color shirt he chose.

I nurse the little one and pour bowls of cereal for the others.  I start the laundry and answer a few e-mails.  And then I see it.  "I still love you."  As if he knew what was whirling through my sleeping mind just a few hours before.  I read it again.  And again.  And I smile, knowing it's true.

He still loves me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

socks

I notice the sun beginning to descend behind the mountains and I scramble to figure out what my loved ones will eat for dinner.  A few hours later, I serve them an unbalanced meal with a guilty heart.  I glance around the house.  Toys clutter nearly every surface, the trash is overflowing with fast food wrappers, the floor is covered in crumbs, dishes fill the sink...

I gaze at my family.  Nearly every member enthralled by a screen.  A little one with breakfast still on her chubby cheeks.  Another with holes in the knees of his pants, hair covering his ears betraying his desperate need of a haircut.  The littlest wails for no apparent reason, and the oldest covers his ears.

I trip over an overturned laundry basket in the hallway.  Both laundry machines are full, and awaiting my attention.  Dirty clothes clutter the floor, and a little one tells me that she has no clean socks in her drawer and "what should I do mom?  My feet are cold."

The sun peers through the blinds, offering a ray of hope for a fleeting moment.  But then those same rays point out the flecks of dust on the living room mirror and on the frames that surround memories of a white dress and naked feet.

I feel helpless to do anything about the weight that is shoving me down.  I go through the motions of bagging up trash and pouring soap into the washing machine and pushing the broom, but there is still evidence of a haircut in the sink, and fingerprints on the walls, and that little one is still pushing the hair out of his eyes.

I put on my socks.  At least my feet will be warm.